Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Spotlight: Charleston, SC


Charleston, SC consistently ranks as one of best cities in the world. Also deemed as one of the fastest growing cities since 2010, Charleston has become a hot spot for startups who’ve raised over $10 million in funding.

Charleston, SC, frequently ranked by Travel and Leisure as one of the best cities in the world, is the state’s oldest and largest city. One of the nation’s fastest-growing cities since 2010, Charleston has become a hot spot for startups – including software company Atlatl, which has raised over $12 million in funding, and accounting startup Ceterus, which has raised over $10 million since relocating to Charleston from Michigan several years ago.

In 2018, Charleston was ranked 47th on WalletHub’s list of the best large cities to start a business. Additionally, the same website listed Charleston as the 67th-best metropolitan area for STEM professionals. Finally, Business.org ranked the city as one of the top 50 best for women to start a business.

Based on these rankings, FundingSage has reviewed the resources that make up Charleston’s entrepreneurial ecosystem:

Entrepreneurial Meetups:

Home to one branch of The Founding Moms’ Exchange, entrepreneurial-minded mothers can meet and support one another.

Great Business Networking is a large networking group that holds frequent meetings in the area to help local business owners and professionals meet one another.

For those just outside of Charleston, Mount Pleasant Networking holds weekly breakfast meetings in which business-minded people network and share referrals.

Startup Grind holds regular entrepreneurial meetings and events in cities around the country, including regular ones through their Charleston chapter.


Regular Entrepreneurial Events:

The Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs Summit is hosted annually by the College of Charleston Center for Entrepreneurship and Women Entrepreneurs of Charleston.

This Angel Conference is an annual event bringing together investors, both experienced and inexperienced, and entrepreneurs.

DIG SOUTH, a group that supports technology and innovation in the southern United States, hosts an annual conference in Charleston supporting it.

Techstars hosts regular Startup Weekend events around the country, including several in the Charleston, SC area.


Startup Competitions:

In addition to panels and networking opportunities, the annual Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs Summit includes a pitch competition.

Each year during the Charleston Library Conference, entrepreneurs can compete for cash prizes or a travel stipend in the Fast Pitch competition.

All current students at The Citadel can compete in the Bulldog Business Bowl, a three-round business plan competition with cash prizes.

The annual DIG SOUTH conference includes Wild Pitch, an event in which entrepreneurs can present and pitch their early- and growth-stage startups to a panel of investors.

As part of the ImpactX Accelerator program at the College of Charleston, selected student teams can compete for $10,000 in the pitch competition.

Headquartered in the city, YEScarolina holds a statewide business plan competition for young students for seed money up to $3,000.


Co-working Spaces:

With private office and dedicated desk space, The Eves Collective is a co-working space specifically geared towards women.

In addition to a monthly co-working membership, Holy City Collective offers daily rates, conference room rentals, and event space.

Technically located in Mount Pleasant, InnoLabs offers both co-working space and private offices for small teams.

Specifically designed for entrepreneurs, Local Works Charleston offers three membership levels with varying benefits and price points.



Run by the Daniel Library at The Citadel, The Citadel Makerspace provides tools and workspace to all of the school’s students, faculty and staff.

Makelab Charleston charges a monthly membership fee but hosts weekly open houses in which the public is welcome to visit and explore the space.

In addition to providing tools and equipment, Reforge also hosts regular classes and workshops to increase STEAM education and awareness.



The Charleston Area Small Business Development Center provides a number of workshops and resources to support small business.

This incubator provides promising tech startups with a variety of resources, including personalized working spaces, networking opportunities, and access to capital.

In addition to an accelerator program, the Harbor Entrepreneur Center provides a number of other resources to support innovation and entrepreneurship.

Lowcountry Local First is a nonprofit dedicated to supporting the growth of locally-owned businesses and startups.



The Harbor Accelerator works personally with startups across a variety of sectors with the goal of growing and supporting business in the area.

The College of Charleston runs several programs under the ImpactX banner to incubate and accelerate student business plans.

Organized by the South Carolina Research Authority, SC Launch is a program that works with startups throughout the state to help them grow and find funding.



Charleston Southern University’s College of Business offers an undergraduate degree program in entrepreneurship as well as a variety of MBA degrees.

The Citadel’s Baker School of Business offers students the ability to study principled entrepreneurship and take part in out-of-class activities and competitions.

The Center for Entrepreneurship at College of Charleston celebrates and supports entrepreneurship at the school through a number of resources and a minor.

Students at Trident Technical College can earn an associate’s degree in business administration with a focus in small business and entrepreneurship.


Angel Groups/VCs:

Alerion Ventures invests in early-stage companies throughout the Southeast, with a primary interest in business-to-business software and technology-enabled services.

With several offices around the United States and the rest of the world, CapA Partners aims to invest in promising early-stage business-to-business startups.

Founded in 2004, Charleston Angel Partners is an angel group that invests in medical device and technology companies around the United States, with a preference for the Southeast region.

In addition to a fund specifically for those with ties to MIT, Good Growth Capital invests in technology startups throughout the Southeast.


Entrepreneurial Newsletter Coverage:

The Business Journal offers newsletters with business news from around the region and the state as a whole.

The Charleston Metro Chamber offers a bi-weekly e-newsletter with information about Chamber of Commerce news and events.

The Post and Courier, Charleston’s primary newspaper, offers a variety of newsletters including one for business headlines and news.

This website provides entrepreneurs with information concerning their financial well-being, from building a business plan, anticipating startup costs, the requirements of owning a business and more.


Are you familiar with entrepreneurial ecosystem infrastructure in Charleston not included in the article above?  If so, let us know via a comment below, and we will add it to the article. 

Interested in Ecosystem Spotlights of other cities in the USA?

Jacksonville, FL, Greenville, SC, Raleigh, NC

Quinn Pilkey

Quinn is a journalism major at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He also serves as a freelance author for Hashtag Basketball where he writes about the NBA's Charlotte Hornets and at FundingSage where he researches and writes about entrepreneurial ecosystems.